Benefits can either be means-tested or non-means-tested. Here is what these mean:
An assessment of your means (income and capital) determine your entitlement to these. If your income or capital is over a set threshold, you will not qualify, even if you meet all of the other requirements.
Therefore, income and capital must be sufficiently low to qualify for a means-tested benefit.
These do not involve a detailed assessment of means. You will qualify if you meet the eligibility criteria (such as being disabled or widowed) regardless of your income or capital.
Non-means tested benefits are further divided into contributory and non-contributory benefits.
For contributory benefits, as well as meeting the eligibility criteria, you must have paid sufficient National Insurance Contributions (NICs) to qualify. These are called the ‘contribution conditions’.
You can qualify for non-contributory benefits as long as you meet the eligibility criteria regardless of the NICs you have made. Therefore, you do not have to satisfy contribution conditions to qualify.
Some benefits (including tax credits) act as a passport to other benefits. Therefore it is worthwhile claiming these benefits to become entitled to other benefits even if you do not receive any money from the original claim.
This can include such things as sight tests, dental treatment and hospital fares.
Belfast City Council have a handy booklet online called Seniors Info (640KB). It includes contact details for organisations who can help you with further information.